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Coach, captain douse fire, ashes fly

Calcutta, Sept. 16: Greg Chappell and Sourav Ganguly haven’t exactly kissed and made up, but both don’t want the Bulawayo controversy to exacerbate either.

Questions, though, continue to pop up.

About the tenability (and propriety) of Chappell asking Sourav to step down before the first Test; about Sourav’s own wisdom in answering a question he could have parried with “no comments'.”

There are others, too.

Despite the potentially Katrina-like development, the Team India coach and captain shook hands and congratulated each other after the innings win over Zimbabwe this afternoon.

Chappell and Sourav also joined the double celebration ' the other occasion being rookie Dheeraj Jadhav’s 26th birthday ' in the Queens Sports Club dressing room.

Unlike most in the squad, neither the coach nor captain is heading for Victoria Falls tomorrow. Instead, they go straight to Harare, where the second (and final) Test begins on Tuesday.

It’s to be seen whether a one-on-one is initiated to revive a working relationship, at least.

In any case, the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s message to Chappell and Sourav has been unambiguous: Let the (“childish” as a functionary put it) controversy die down and focus on better cricket.

“What happened can’t be settled either by removing the coach or captain' That can’t be the solution,” is what somebody very influential in the board told The Telegraph.

Manager Amitabh Choudhary is now the chief firefighter as well and has the “freedom” to tackle even delayed unpleasantness in the manner he deems best.

Quite remarkably, the manager doused the fire when it started, on Monday, and quickly got into the act after Sourav’s sensational media conference last evening.

Choudhary spoke to both Chappell and the captain minutes after the ‘I-was-asked-to-step-down’ dhamaka.

Vice-captain Rahul Dravid was also (again) brought into the loop. He termed the “leak” and its fallout as “most unfortunate”.

Apparently, the manager interacted with the coach and captain this morning, too. Just to clear the air ' for now, certainly.

Chappell didn’t comment when this newspaper telephoned him, but a confidant later said: “Yesterday, he was very hurt on learning that something discussed between him and the captain had leaked. Today, he has been fine and is convinced his talk had a motivational effect.”

Sourav scored 101, his first Test century in 21 months.

Chappell’s roots are in a school which favours the captain being picked after the best have been chosen.

Sourav, for his part, remarked: “It’s not an issue I wish to talk about' I hope the media will respect my wishes'”

There was, however, a change from last night: The captain sounded relaxed.

Footnote: National selector Pranab Roy feels Chappell “should at least” have spoken to chief selector Kiran More before asking Sourav to step down. “I don’t have details first-hand, but there’s a protocol for everything,” he said.

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